Born in the same Liverpool suburb as current well-known midfielders Steven Gerrard and Joey Barton, Peter Reid had a solid playing career, most notably at Bolton, Everton, and Manchester City. He won the FA Cup and old First Division twice (both at Everton). He was selected as the PFA Footballer of the Year in 1985. Reid also represented his country 13 times and was a key cog in England’s World Cup 1986 team, which was eliminated in the quarterfinals by eventual tournament champion Argentina.
He’s had some success in the managerial ranks, too, with more than respectable records at City and Sunderland, where he was on the bench for 159 victories in his seven-year tenure. Reid didn’t fare particularly well in either of his last two jobs, though, as he compiled a combined 16-25-12 mark at Leeds and Coventry City. He left the Sky Blues in January of 2005 after the goal of getting them promoted back into the Premiership had fallen miserably short — they were sitting in 20th place at the time.
Still, Reid’s past accomplishments basically guaranteed him a job in the game somewhere if he was interested. He departed from Coventry before the age of 50, which is relatively young for a manager these days. He’d worked in TV to pass the time — for Sky Sports and the Football Channel — so it was clear his enthusiasm for the sport was still there. Unlike Kevin Keegan, Reid kept himself involved.
Enter the Thailand national team, currently ranked 112th in the world by FIFA. Believe me, I’ve never been one to put much stock into those things (it’s hard to take them seriously when you see how highly the US and England, among others, have been ranked, and how low countries like Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Switzerland have been ranked) but common sense wins out in this case. They’ve never participated in a World Cup, despite the fact that Asia is without a doubt the weakest continental confederation from which to qualify. They finished last in their four-team qualifying group in the third round of AFC competition for the 2010 World Cup, behind formidable powerhouses in Japan, Bahrain, and Oman. Thailand earned one point in six games and finished with a -9 goal differential. Sure, Thailand may not be exactly the 112th best team in the world. They could be a bit better. They could be worse. They’re bad either way.
None of this stopped Reid from undertaking the monumental challenge of building up the Southeast Asian nation’s soccer program, however, as he agreed to a four-year contract with the aim of qualifying for World Cup 2014 in Brazil. I’d be lying to you if I said I recognized anyone on the roster chosen for their last competitive game. 15 of the 18 players picked play their domestic soccer in Thailand, and two of the other three play for Manchester City, who, until yesterday, had a Thai owner in Thaksin Shinawatra who simply brought those two to the club.
Thailand has the 20th-largest population in the world, so it’s not like Reid doesn’t have the numbers in his favor from that standpoint. Out of the approximately 63 million people residing in that country, surely he can find 20 of them or so and field a competitive side, right? Not so fast. Thailand is known across the world for its monsoons, which aren’t exactly condusive to soccer. It’s ridiculously hot and humid there. The economy is strengthening slowly and the capital city, Bangkok, is the hub of Southeast Asia, but to say Thailand as a whole is doing well financially would be a severe misrepresentation of the facts.
The odds are certainly stacked against Reid. Fellow Liverpudlian Peter Withe steered Thailand to a couple ASEAN Championships (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) in the early part of this decade, but this is a country that does want a team that can compete on a bigger stage. If Reid is able to get them there, full credit to him. It would be a remarkable managing job and one that hopefully would get its share of publicity around the world. If not, no big loss because Thailand was never there in the first place and everyone knows how difficuly of a task this is. It’s a no-lose situation for Reid.